Before we talk about Voyageurs, we had to get to Voyageurs which meant driving up the north shore of Lake Superior and through Superior National Forest. On the north shore, Tettegouche State Park in Silver Bay, MN is a force to be reckoned with. Already this is my favorite thing we have seen. The rugged cliffs against the calm blue water of Lake Superior was truly breathtaking.
We only had the morning to explore, which in hindsight, I wish would have camped there (we instead had camped not too far away at a free campsite via www.freecampsites.net) Yes, that is a legitimate website where you can put in your location and it will show you free campsites near you. These are all based on your average Joe posting about a free campsite. Some are better than others, people will rate them and will also list the amenities that are available (toilets, hook ups, fire rings, etc.) In our case it was a Silver Bay scenic overlook, aka a slab of cement with no bathroom facilities and the hum of industrial buildings all night. But, hey it was free and we’re on a “no current income budget.”
Back to Tettegouche. We chose to hike High Falls trail. The trail itself is mostly gravel, with a few wooden boardwalks and steep terrain. I am now starting to classify “strenuous hikes” as “butt burners.” This one especially so because it has a few wooden stair off-shoots to get you down to the bottom of the falls. We took the first off-shoot we saw and walked 111 stairs (yes, Jason counted) down to the bottom.
We were rewarded with an amazing view. We hopped out onto the rocks and were able to see a beaver swimming along! We trudged the 111 steps back up to the trail (with a few breaks and our butts were burning).
We continued the hike to the top of High Falls, once there you walked across a wobbly suspension bridge over the falls and could go down into the water. The water felt amazing after the hike to the top. This trail is not a loop so you hike down what you just hiked up. I would recommended taking the off-shoot about half way down. It is another set of stairs, and they lead to the bottom of High Falls. This view was breathtaking.
We sat around and ate from our “nut sack” (Jason’s oh so clever name for the ziploc baggie of nut mix that I bring on our hikes).
We hiked back to the trailhead of High Falls and made our way across the road and down a small trail leading to an opening with a perfect view of Lake Superior. You can walk along a rocky beach and then continue further up the trail for more amazing views of the cliffs along the shore line.
After an unbelievable morning, we drove to Ely, MN. There we found a local laundromat to do the mundane task of washing our laundry. All was fine and well until Jason broke a chair at the laundromat. Sorry!
We found Fenske campground in the Superior National Forest to camp for the night. Nice little campground right on a lake (we are in the state of 10,000 lakes after all). The next morning, we hit a bucket list item for Jason in Ely… The International Wolf Center! We stopped in and listened to a program on wolf behavior. It was a very interesting program until two things happened:
- I was drinking from my water bottle and Jason tried to twist me to look at a wolf walking by outside, therein tweaking my back. Oh no big deal Katie, well when I was 16, a chiropractor said I had the back of a 60 year old which, if my calculations are correct that would mean I would have the back of a 100+ year old now. So this put a damper on the next few days…
- About 10 minutes into the hour long program a couple came and sat directly behind us. The husband proceeded to translate the entire program very loudly to his wife who apparently didn’t speak English . There were plenty of other places to sit so this made the next 50 minutes of the program very hard to concentrate on what the speaker was saying.
After the program we needed to get back on the road, but not before buying matching wolf shirts! We drove to Voyagers National Park as our first National Park on our stop. We went to the Ash River Visitor Center to get our Annual Parks Pass and wouldn’t you know they didn’t know the code to get into the safe where they were. So this is now the second place we have been unable to get out parks pass! They directed us to the Lake Kabetogama Visitor Center, 25 miles away where we FINALLY got our National Parks Pass! Third time’s the charm! We made our way to Wooden Frog Campground State Forest for the next two days. Many people that go to Voyageur’s go for fishing (we don’t fish) so we decided to rent a canoe and canoe around to all of the different islands. We rented a canoe nearby at Arrowhead Lodge (you can rent it for 4 hours or the entire day). Jason said “Oh yeah, the whole day.” We get going and there are motorized boats on the water, because it is such a big body of water and the first set of islands is probably a 20 minute canoe ride. This wouldn’t be bad but with a tweaked back it was not great. So we stopped off at an island for about a half an hour then canoed back to the lodge. Our “entire day canoe” turned into a “2 hour canoe” sorry Jason, but at least I got this great photo! I made it up to him by finding a hike to do that afternoon instead of canoe. Voyageurs doesn’t have a lot of hikes that hike by the water which I thought was strange but, we did one from the Lake Kabetogama Visitor Center.
The next day we ended our Minnesota trip with a stop at Itasca State Park (recommended by my Granny, thank you!). This is where the Mississippi river starts and you can stand in it. We also decided to do a hike next to the lake. This state park is amazing and has so many family oriented things to do as well as lodges to stay in, it would be a great close vacation for any Midwest family (hint hint to our two families). Next up, North Dakota and Theordore Roosevelt National Park!
P.S. The Great Bike Debacle Update: We donated Jason’s to a Goodwill in Ely, MN and Jason disassembled mine and we strapped it to the top of the van to avoid $185 to ship it back home!